The Best Album You’ve Never Heard: Meet The Afters
By Jennifer E. Jones
Tuesdays don’t mean much to most people. But to music fans, it’s our favorite day of the week because Tuesdays mean new music. While you’ve got a lot of choices on February 22nd, let me make a suggestion. Near the front end of the A’s in the Contemporary Christian section, see if you can find a copy or two of the brand new I Wish We All Could Win by The Afters.
The who? Let me explain.
In Mesquite, Texas, musicians Josh Havens, Matt Fuqua, Brad Wigg, and Marc Dodd met while working at Starbucks. Many sold-out shows, a name change, and countless cups of coffee later, The Afters were born. Their indie album, When the World Is Wonderful, sold 2,000 copies in a matter of weeks. Catching the attention of MercyMe’s Bart Millard, the boys were the first to be signed to Millard’s label Simple Records. “They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen,” Millard said. “As a band, they represent everything we desire to be about as a label.”
The title, I Wish We All Could Win, is a line from the song “Someday” and also sums up the feel of this album. It’s a rock’n’roll wave of honest lyrics that show the reality of our often bumpy journey of faith. Havens said, “We’re all in this world living our life, trying to do our best and trying to figure out why we’re here. Essentially, the album is about running the race of life. At the end, there are winners and losers. I wish we all could win.”
Musically, The Afters nestle safely into a Top 40 groove that dances around the sound of Switchfoot and a slightly sedated Sanctus Real. It truly shines in “Love Will Make You Beautiful”. The chorus repeats the title words in a simplistic but encouraging way while Havens’s vocals soar above steady guitar riffs and a sweet piano melody. And you can’t overlook “Love Lead Me On” and “Until the World”, two contemporary pop anthems in the making.
Their attempt at a worship song, “All That I Am”, falls flat on its own. However, it segues well from “Love Lead Me On” to the rockin’ “The Way You Are”. A better shot at divine adoration can be seen in “Wait”. Wigg gently croons, “Wait, I can hardly wait / To look into your face / When the world disappears into your eyes”.
The track that can almost reach out and grab you is the last: “Thank God I’m Not the One”. It is a vulnerable admittance that, “If I had been the one, I would not have been that strong / If I had been the one, yeah, I’d have been long gone.” It’s a humbling truth coming from the four guys next door.
I Wish We All Could Win may not rock your world but it’s a consistently pleasing record with a staying power to still entertain you well after your first listen. The message, above all, takes you some place deep inside. It pulls off the covers and reveals what life is really like. It’s reality music for the soul.
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